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5 “Must-Haves” When Selecting A Physical Therapist

By John Fainsan, John Fainsan PT, DPT, MS, OCS, MTC, CSCS, CDN | November 6, 2018

Determining if you need physical therapy is typically an easy decision. Determining where to go to ensure you’re receiving the best care isn’t always as black and white. Here are the top 5 qualities to look for in a physical therapist so you can overcome your pain or injury and get back to the life you love!


1. Quality time spent with the patient

This first criterion is the most important when selecting a physical therapist. Ideally, you need one hour of dedicated one-on-one time so you can feel confident the physical therapist has properly assessed the root cause of your pain or dysfunction. This also allows ample time to provide proper treatment as your physical therapist should look beyond treating just the site of pain and identify all potential sources. Too often physical therapy appointments last 15 minutes and then the patient is sent to perform independent exercises. At VTFC, we dedicate a full hour to each patient and we maximize the time to address all underlying issues to make sure the patient has a clear and comprehensive treatment plan with the ultimate goal being more efficient sessions and faster total treatment duration.

2. Reassessment at every appointment

Reassessment is important at each visit to adjust to improvements or setbacks that you’ve made since the last treatment. That doesn’t necessarily mean the treatment should or will change each visit, but the physical therapist must be aware of your progress, rather than rehashing the same treatment over and over again. Your treatment plan should be personalized and address your needs.

3. Continuity of Care

Are you going to be with the same physical therapist at each visit? Do you work primarily with the physical therapist or with students/aids? Developing a trusted relationship with a patient is of paramount importance to their recovery so you should really be working with just 1 therapist (2 if you have scheduling conflicts). Anything beyond 2 therapists can become problematic, as communication between everyone becomes difficult and the treatment plan becomes muddled. Soliciting advice from other physical therapists or transferring care to someone more capable is perfectly normal.

4. Understanding of latest research and technology

There are breakthroughs happening regularly in the field of physical therapy and your physical therapist should know the latest technology and treatment strategies. Continuous education and training provide patients with more effective treatment plans (rooted in research and practice) that lead to a faster recovery time. This may include certifications in orthopedic specialties, trigger point dry needling, strength, and conditioning techniques, manual therapy, athletic training, etc.

5. Empower you with education

It goes without saying, but your therapist should have a complete understanding of the source of your pain and how to treat it. He/she should subsequently be able to communicate his/her findings in a clear, concise manner so that you are aware of your condition and how to best manage the treatment. This can take the form of patient education, home exercises, and advice on activity modifications or alternatives.  To achieve all of the above, you need an ample amount of one on one time.

BONUS TIP: Quality of patient care team
In addition to seamlessly coordinating your physical therapy appointments, your care team should be advocating for you when explaining insurance benefits, filing insurance claims on your behalf, explaining costs, and following up on payments, questions, and/or concerns.

Virginia Therapy & Fitness Center blends care and compassion with treatment options that are rooted in research and clinical application. Our care model places the patient first, offering individualized, one-on-one attention to ensure you overcome your pain or injury as quickly as possible. See how our physical therapists can help you achieve your goals and get you back to the life you love!